First Test – Day 2: The Australians fight back

by John Harms

Australia’s top order batted their side back into the First Test at Cardiff after their trundlers nearly bowled them out of it. Simon Katich took guard, had a long look at the armoury of the Englishmen, and decided he wasn’t going to be responsible for his own dismissal. He wasn’t. His unbeaten century was a patient knock, while at the other end the skipper looked to play himself back into form. By the time stumps were drawn he had, compiling a century of his own.

I’d settled into the Wellington Hotel in North Adelaide, a pub where I spent many a happy night back in the mid-80s (Fats Domino on the juke-box), as the Australians looked for quick wickets to keep the Poms under 360. Rump steak. The Thursday hounds on the other TV. And blokes with goatee beards. (Is Robert Walls from Adelaide?)

From the outset things didn’t look good. Siddle dished up a half volley and Broad belted it to the boundary. Ponting threw Hauritz the aspro for the second over and his first ball gripped and turned, beat Haddin down the leg-side and went for four byes. The Australian batsmen looked at each other. Hauritz went for three more boundaries in the over and the crowd went into instant party mode.

The party developed plenty of momentum as the English tail went the old-fashioned long-handled tonk. And it seemed the best attack the colonies could cobble together was powerless to do anything about it. Broad and Anderson waited for the ball to come to them, and then hit through the line, just the way your old man told you to when you were a kid. They registered 50 in the first eight overs.

Philip Hughes looked nervous. Ricky Ponting just stared into the distance like he was in an R.M. Williams ad.

Johnson bowled Broad around his legs, and then Jimmy Anderson chipped Hauritz to mid-on. At the other end Graeme Swann was having a picnic, chipping down the ground, and manufacturing a kind of reverse swat. He got to 40 in no time. Even Monty looked in a bit of touch until he steer-nicked a quicker one from Hauritz to Ponting at a second slip.

The Poms had put on 99 and, on a deck which was starting to turn, their total of 435 looked strong.

Hughes and Katich needed a good start. Hughes survived a big LBW shout in the opening over under the Doctrove Rule. He doesn’t give them. (Earlier in the day Hilfenhaus had been denied again). But then the unconventional left-hander went bang, bang, bang, and was away.

By this time I was driving up the freeway into the Adelaide Hills, enjoying the  commentary of Blo-ers and Aggers and, of all people, I.M. Chappell who was in very good form. When Aggers noticed the former Australian Prime Minister in the crowd he asked Chappelli what he thought of John Howard. Chappelli went dead-pan: he gave the score, and then the batsmen’s scores. These commentators may bring the best out of Chappell. Imagine what they’d do with W.M. Lawry.

Hughes was giving the bowlers every chance, giving himself room, and at times too much room with rather cavalier (and unlikely) footwork. Enter Freddie Flintoff who brought the game to life with his bouncy energy. He bowled short and quick, and in an instant had the crowd feeling all 2005 again.

After building the tension Flintoff found the inside edge of Hughes’ wand and Prior took a neat catch. Freddie was channeling 2005 because he stood mid-pitch with both arms extended, like he did throughout that memorable series.

But Freddie’s body doesn’t allow for long spells and his dynamic cameo lasted just six overs. Katich looked relatively comfortable, Ponting looked absolutely determined, although the hardness of his hands and rhythm of his swing suggested he wasn’t (yet) in the pink of form.

Andrew Strauss did what Ponting didn’t: he rotated his bowlers, trying Swann who bowled three of that rare commodity in twenty-first century cricket, the maiden over. He looked like he might strike, but it was only might, and the pressure subsided. So, too, Monty, who appeared most dangerous when he held his deliveries back, consistently turning into Katich’s pads. That Katich’s pads finish about a foot and a half outside the line of his off-peg served to frustrate the orthodox spinner.

It was intriguing cricket played to a soundtrack of the Flintstones theme from the rosy-cheeked man on the trumpet who also did a fair version of Men of Harlech, known better to Queenslanders and lovers of rugby league as the Wynnum Manly club song.

The batsmen were really set, and Strauss and the terrace (where there was a bloke in a Hawthorn jumper – almost certainly not Dave or Tim, though, who are in England to escape football) were offering prayers for the arrival of reverse. Which didn’t come. Instead it was spin from both ends. And then pedestrian medium pacers from those who can bowl quicker, while the Australians accumulated.

As they pushed beyond 200 it seemed the only chance of a wicket was a run out, but as the current side is Waugh-less, this was also unlikely.

The grafting of the Australians was interrupted by a small man dressed as David Gower in full batting kit who was body surfed up the terrace.

All interest was whether the two Australians could post their hundreds before stumps. Katich was first with an uppish spoon to fine leg, before a couple overs later Ponting tipped and ran just a couple balls before stumps.

The Australians finished at 1/249. They still have a long way to go.

All eyes will be on the state of the pitch when play resumes tonight.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo9, Anna7, Evie6. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    John,
    Enjoyed the article.
    There was a little bit of Darling and Wood going on when Ponting was on 99.
    The Sky Sports cheersquad is starting to grate.
    They were quite circumspect in the final session as the Aussies piled them on.
    BBC Radio 5 Live (accessed from BBC iPlayer) have an entertaining wrap of each day’s play.
    Listen for plenty of references to the 2005 series and Boycott’s disdain for Hauritz as a bowler. Aggers is a star.
    The only positive about repeated 2005 references is that we don’t get to here about 1981 any more.
    Peter

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